Innovation challenges launched to help southwestern Ontario tech rebuild, recover from COVID-19


TechAlliance, in partnership with the Pillar Nonprofit Network and Libro Credit Union, has launched two challenges aimed at responding to issues brought about by COVID-19, as well as rebuilding communities post-pandemic.

“It’s crucial to enable [innovators] with resources and guidance as they take the initiative to preserve our economic prosperity.”

The three organizations have committed a total of $40,000, with $20,000 for each of the two winning innovations, in addition to a suite of personalized services for those winners. The organizations are encouraging applicants to design for those most affected by the virus, and are also encouraging applications from grass-roots initiatives, individuals, or teams of people who are engaged in a startup or scaling enterprises and nonprofits.

“In response to unprecedented challenges, Southwestern Ontario innovators are creating bold, technology-driven solutions through the design challenges to address our region’s needs,” said Christina Fox, CEO of TechAlliance. “Now more than ever, it’s crucial to enable them with resources and guidance as they take the initiative to preserve our economic prosperity.”

The “Recovery and Rebuilding the Region Design Challenges,” which are being presented by WEtech Alliance and Communitech, are now issuing an open call for tech-enabled “Made in Southwestern Ontario” products, services, or solutions designed with the community in mind.

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Each challenge period is made up of a ten-day cycle, which gives applicants three days to plan, three days to apply, and three days for industry experts to evaluate submissions. On the final day, the organizations will announce a successful solution. Along with funding, the winners will work with coaches from each of the design challenge partners to develop a final product, service, process, or collaboration.

The first challenge, called Recovery, will provide $20,000 and personalized support for one innovation that addresses an immediate health or social issue related to COVID-19. Applications for the first challenge are currently open and will close on May 2. The winner will be announced May 5.

The second challenge, Rebuilding, will provide $20,000 and support for an innovation that supports economic recovery and “community prosperity” in Southwestern Ontario. The dates for the second challenge have not yet been announced.

TechAlliance is the Regional Innovation Centre (RIC) for Southwestern Ontario, and is one of 17 RICs across Ontario that support local tech entrepreneurship. TechAlliance is set to move into a new space in downtown London, Ont.

“We’re grateful to be leading this call for ‘Made in Southwestern Ontario’ solutions in partnership with two organizations devoted to social responsibility, and with the commitment of two other Regional Innovation Centres,” Fox added. “This initiative truly embodies the collaborative Ontario spirit.”

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A number of innovation organizations across Canada have launched challenges to promote the development of solutions that can help fight the pandemic. This month, Shopify launched a new initiative that challenges teams within its partner network to build an app that helps businesses adapt and grow online.

The National Research Council has launched three challenge programs in response to the pandemic. The procurement program posts challenges seeking near-to-market solutions from businesses that meet a COVID-19 related need. The pandemic response challenge program will assist industry members in accelerating research and design for solutions addressing COVID-19 challenges. The third challenge is aimed at developing and scaling vaccine and therapy candidates.

Techstars hosted its first-ever online and national Startup Weekend, with a new focus on solutions that can help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The DMZ also created an online hackathon aimed at facilitating the development of solutions to help address the current crisis.

Image source Unsplash. Photo by Maxwell Ridgeway.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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